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McDonald v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

September 15, 2017

CARA DEEANN MCDONALD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          PAUL D. STICKNEY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Cara Deeann McDonald ("Plaintiff) brings this action for judicial review of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's ("Commissioner") final decision denying her claims for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). For the following reasons, the final decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleges that she is disabled due to a variety of ailments, including depression and back pain. Tr. 96, ECF No. 13-2. After her application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, a hearing was held on February 21, 2014, in Dallas, Texas, before Administrative Law Judge Gilbert Rodriguez (the "ALJ"). Tr. 200, ECF No. 13-3. Plaintiff was born on December 30, 1976 and was 37 years at the time of the hearing. Tr. 201, ECF No. 13-4. Plaintiff attended high school through the 10th grade. Tr. 202, ECF No. 13-4. Plaintiff has past work experience as an automobile inspector, a car seat instructor, and a school bus monitor. Tr. 231, ECF No. 13-4. Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 23, 2011. Tr. 15, ECF No. 13-2.

         On May 20, 2015, the ALJ issued his decision finding that Plaintiff has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act since February 1, 2012, the date Plaintiffs application was filed. Tr. 30, ECF No. 13-2. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: disorders of the back, and depressive and anxiety disorder. Tr. 15, ECF No. 13-2. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Tr. 16, ECF No. 13-2. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform at least light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). Tr. 19, ECF No. 13-2. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff: (1) could sit, stand, and/or walk for approximately six hours in an eight hour workday; (2) was not limited in pushing and/or pulling with her upper or lower extremities; (3) could frequently balance, kneel, and crawl; (4) could occasionally crouch, stoop, and climb ramps and stairs; (5) should not climb any ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; (6) has no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations; (7) has the ability to learn, remember, understand, and carry out at least detailed work instructions and tasks; (8) could use judgment in making work related decisions; (9) could respond and relate appropriately with supervisors and co-workers; (10) could maintain attention and concentration for at least two hour intervals; and (11) could adapt to and deal with changes in work settings and environments. Tr. 19, ECF No. 13-2. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was unable to perform any of her past relevant work, but that Plaintiff could work as a packer, an assembler, and a wire sorter. Tr. 28 & 30, ECF No. 13-2.

         Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council and on October 8, 2015, the Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's decision. Tr. 6, ECF No. 13-2. Plaintiff filed this action in the District Court on June 8, 2016. Compl., ECF No. 1.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         A claimant must prove that she is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act to be entitled to social security benefits. Leggett v. Chater, 67 F.3d 558, 563-64 (5th Cir. 1995); Abshire v. Bowen, 848 F.2d 638, 640 (5th Cir. 1988). The definition of disability under the Act is "the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically-determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Anthony v. Sullivan, 954 F.2d 289, 292 (5th Cir. 1992).

         The Commissioner utilizes a sequential five-step inquiry to determine whether a claimant is disabled. Those steps are that:

(1) an individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful activity will not be found disabled regardless of medical findings;
(2) an individual who does not have a "severe impairment" will not be found to be disabled;
(3) an individual who meets or equals a listed impairment in Appendix 1 of the regulations will be considered disabled without consideration of vocational factors;
(4) if an individual is capable of performing the work the individual has done in the past, a finding of "not disabled" will be made; and
(5) if an individual's impairment precludes the individual from performing the work the individual has done in the past, other factors including age, education, past work experience, and residual functional capacity must be ...

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